[Update: We're wide-eyed and grateful at the support so far, and we've got until Sunday at Midnight to hit our stretch goal of $18,000! Check our updates for more info. By request, we've also set up our beautiful Ellie Mejía-designed tote and mug as add-ons; scroll to bottom for info on adding those to an existing pledge.]
We want to build a coffee shop within the Experimental Station, a non-profit center on the border of Hyde Park and Woodlawn at 61st and Blackstone.
We’re forging a shop for artists and activists and journalists, everybody from kids at the elementary school next door to neighbors in the surrounding blocks to grad students just north. But we need you. Here's the pitch:
The idea for this shop was born from the space it’ll be housed in. The Experimental Station is a non-profit whose two-story brick building you may have already encountered from one angle or another. Their 61st Street farmers market draws over a thousand people from Hyde Park, Woodlawn, and beyond.
The Experimental Station is itself a non-profit, but their building also acts as a home for a great slate of tenants. Our neighbors within the building include bikeshop/mentoring program Blackstone Bikes and three of the most exciting journalism projects in the city: the Invisible Institute, City Bureau, and the South Side Weekly. At any given hour of any given day, there’s somebody working hard and making good things.
Right now, to most people most of the time, the Experimental Station is a locked door. There’s lots of space for folks already working within the building to collaborate, but there’s no central hub that’s open to the public: no space to meet up, hold an interview, or swing by for a cup of coffee. The blocks surrounding 61st and Blackstone are full of students, families, and professionals—a community that already supports a thriving weekly farmers market, and one that we think could use a great coffee shop. That’s where we come in.
Build’s anchor is great coffee. Our roaster, HalfWit, is small like us but growing fast, and they’re serious about their beans. Like we do, they think coffee should be thoughtfully sourced, roasted and brewed with love and skill, and served without pretension. Also: it's delicious.
We’ll also have a wide tea selection, decaf for those who insist, and a sweet S’mores Hot Chocolate we’re already experimenting on.
Our food menu will be simple, fresh, and nourishing. We’ll source year-round from the 61st St. Farmers Market right outside our doors, and from local folks as serious about their croissants as we are about our coffee.
The northern wall of the shop will act as a hybrid library/miniature bookstore. We’ll offer a carefully curated selection of much-loved used books and magazines, small press publications, and locally focused lit. We already have a full collection of Believer Magazine for browsing, and 500+ other books ready for a home on our shelves (and someday yours).
Build will also be a small venue for screenings, local and touring bands, and workshops. Bea, our booker, will be working to pull in cool gigs and open the space up to anybody who has a great idea for it.
We’ve spent the last year crafting plans, getting feedback, and begging, borrowing, and stealing (minimal stealing) to put together almost all the funds we need to get a coffee shop off the ground. But we want to do this right.
Your $12,000 helps finish out the physical end, buys inventory as we grow a base of regulars, and means we can afford to hire a small but mighty staff and pay them a fair wage.
We’ve designed our rewards to showcase everything we’re hoping the shop can provide: all the things that we’ll be able to do for years to come if we close our funding gap.
Our ears and inboxes are always open to questions; get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org. We think this will be an amazing space, and that it will only get better as it ages. We want you in it with us from day one.
[Add Ons] If you're looking to add an additional tote ($40) or mug ($25) to an existing pledge, just up your pledge by the above amounts—we'll cover the extra shipping! <3
Risks and challenges
With any small business, there are questions of viability. Will people come? And is the business structured to be profitable and sustainable when they do?
The second question is one we’ve spent this past year working on: breaking down everything from menu to staffing structure to construct a sustainable space. We've also spent the summer running a miniature version of the shop, a farmers market stand where we've been able to meet our neighbors and introduce them to Build.
As for the first question, we're optimistic. We’ll be the closest independent coffee shop for a solid 1,500 people in the blocks west of the Metra tracks and south of the University of Chicago. With an exuberant newspaper/postcard/social media campaign and your help, we’re going to make sure all of them know we’re here.
Our business is small, young, and nimble. We’ve carefully budgeted for a winter’s worth of funding to get us off the ground. We’re tracking every aspect of our shop, and if something’s not working, we’ll change it. This project is going to mean a lot of late nights and early mornings, and we’re ready for both.
We also have a vast amount of faith in you, a community of people who are already invested. We promise to build something so good that it’s worth coming back to again and again. We hope you’ll tell your friends.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (31 days)